Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    By Kyiakhalid Ruiz

    At the Oakland Museum of California, a child plays around with softly textured lighting of the “Nature’s Gift” exhibit, as shadows dance behind her. (Tower/John Marshall)

    By Kyiakhalid Ruiz

    The Oakland Museum of California’s (OMCA) Curator of Art Carin Adams is always on the hunt to work with innovative artists. On a family vacation to San Diego a few years ago, she enjoyed a particular installation in the San Diego Children’s Museum with her daughters. This introduced her to a pair of artists that she’d been following for a while. Those artists are the collective FriendsWithYou and their latest installation, entitled “Nature’s Gift”, is on display at the OMCA now through Jan. 21, 2018.

    “We had an idea that we wanted to do some project here that captured the spirit of Friday Nights (at the OMCA).” Adams recalled. “I saw their work online before I saw them in person. I think it was a project that they did on the Highline (in NYC), so there were a lot of photographs of it. In the back of my mind, ‘Oh, these guys are interesting.’”

    FriendsWithYou is the art partnership of Arturo “Tury” Sandoval III and Sam Borkman, friends from Miami who have recently moved to Los Angeles. After Adams’ San Diego experience with FriendsWithYou, Adams knew she had to bring them to Oakland. “They weren’t just on my dream list, they were on my absolutely have to do list.”

    The inspiration for the artists feels a bit metaphysical: think light therapy.

    The feeling is mutual according to artist Sam Borkman. “The reason that we love this museum so much is that we just feel that it is a part of the community. More than a lot of contemporary-focussed museums, this is art but it is a full community.”

    In collaboration with the OMCA, FriendsWithYou created a unique installation for the museum that plays off of the nature and science and community of the OMCA. “Nature’s Gift” is the result of that pairing.

    A uniquely immersive exhibit that blends light, sound and shape, “Nature’s Gift” is the artists’ attempt to spread healing and inclusion to today’s fractious world. A giant inflatable installation in the darkened exhibit hall, “Nature’s Gift” is lit from within with a rotating series of pulsating colors and takes up almost the entire exhibit hall. Ringing the edges of “Nature’s Gift” are a plethora of hammocks where visitors can relax and absorb the soothing soundscape of music created specifically for the exhibit.

    OMCA’s “Nature’s Gift” exhibit features an inflatable installation, lit from within by colored lights that change over time, as pictured above. (Tower/John Marshall)

    A visitor might think “rave culture” when they first see the giant gumdrop-like installation, the artists’ inspiration is a bit more metaphysical: think light therapy.

    “What we tried to create are the, for the most part, like joyful, shared experiences,” “Tury” Sandoval explains. “Somehow alluding to our lost sense of almost kid-like sensitivity that we’re trying to draw out from people.”

    Borkman agrees. “This kind of communal experiences with people have been looming in our minds for a while. After seeing the museum, and seeing that it’s science and nature and all these things combined it kind of led to this idea that’s ‘Nature’s Gift’. That combining all these things including the metaphysical realm and bringing it to a connective tissue or a connective piece that we can experience.”

    The exhibit is the artist’s attempt to spread healing and inclusion to today’s fractious world.

    That communal experience also led to the reinvention of the museum space according to OMCA Director Lori Fogarty. “We’re really excited about this opportunity, because it’s new for us and we like to experiment here at the Oakland Museum of California. We like to try new and different things. One of the things we’re really interested in is this kind of blending of exhibition and space and program and community gathering.”

    This reinterpretation of museum space is apparent by the OMCA Store kiosk located right in the exhibit hall with “Nature’s Gift”. The kiosk sells items inspired by the “Nature’s Gift” kid-friendly attitude of healing, including lighted balls to bounce around the exhibit hall, lighted hula hoops or even blinking lighted earrings.

    The exhibit can be viewed in the round and even from within and the shapes that make up the inflatable installation of “Nature’s Gift” come from a variety of sources including plants, humans and nature.

    “If you look at the whole piece together, it’s kind of a mixture between human and plant and nature,” Borkman explains. “So it’s like we’re trying to meld the whole thing together where it all becomes one. Including, the sound, even compressing the air to take away the space between us, the sculpture and everything in between.”

    A visitor of OMCA’s “Nature’s Gift” exhibit wanders through a giant inflatable shape, a playful part of the installation. (Tower/John Marshall)

    When asked whether she thought the exhibit accomplished its purpose, OMCA Curator of Art Carin Adams is pragmatic. “I want to see school groups move in at one point and then older folks, people who come in big groups…” she said. “When I see that happening then I’ll feel that we’ve succeeded.”

    FriendsWithYou artist Sam Borkman’s satisfaction comes from how “Nature’s Gift” makes viewers feel.

    “Even more than a lot of works that we have, sometimes we shoot for something and we don’t hit it as well as we’d like to,” he said. “But I feel with this we really did. I feel that it’s healing and I feel that it brings you into the piece and really does give back to the viewer in an unknown way. Which is exciting.”

    Kyiakhalid Ruiz is the Multimedia Editor at the Laney Tower. Email him at [email protected].

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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